Elements of Narrative

This page was written by Professor John Lye. If you have any suggestions to add to this list, or anything you would like to challenge or change, mail me.

Here are what seem to me to be the main elements of narrative. In a broad consideration of "plot", all of these elements would be considered; in a more narrow definition, those elements which have to do with what occurs, in what order, in the effecting of the outcome.

Time and ...

change; therefore...

motives for or reasons for change; to be found in...

a conflict, or confrontation, or environmental or contextual alteration

Continuity -- relationship of incidents in some comprehensible fashion, according to time or action or idea

Selection (as one cannot include everything) -- and therefore...

exclusions, and also...

connections (bridgings of the 'gaps' of exclusion, selection) -- coincidence, significant repetition, motifs, juxtaposition, contiguity

A begining and an ending, however indefinite

A narrator (the story must get told), and therefore....

a perspective

Some sort of setting or context (an invoked world, with presumably relevant details)

Actors...

and hence relationships;

One may also, as the story is told in language, want to consider as part of narrative various formal and rhetorical elements -- e.g. emphasis, repetition, parallels, motifs, metonyms, metaphors

The compression and selection required of a narrative is generally given greater cogency by the use of significant realtionships among its elements -- incidents, characters, setting and so forth.